The Formula for a Successful School Year

Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Commentary, Featured | 0 comments

  • academic mindset
  • creative, engaging, and relevant lessons planned
  • ready to welcome every student where they are
  • classroom ready for learning
  • teacher ready for learning

Just like millions of students each year, teachers are also underway during these first weeks of school preparing for the year ahead. They are reviewing the data that they have on their students and creating a plan of action that meets each student’s individual learning needs. They are planning projects, activities, and discussion sparkers that will make learning come alive for their students. They are gathering their resources – learning materials, technology, outside content experts – and making connections that effectively integrate them into the learning environment. Teachers are scheduling time with their peers to plan, share, and provide input to ideas and challenges. They are reflecting on their previous teaching and identifying areas for growth and change. And they are planning for opportunities where they, as teachers, are also always learning and building energy to inspire and motivate their students. It’s a tall order, but this is what great teaching is all about.

When the NCTAF Commission launched its Great Teaching initiative in May 2015, the charge was clear: as a country, we need to recognize the critical role that teaching serves in preparing our youth for college, career, and life, and we need to get behind these hard-working and committed educators and put in place the conditions that support them in this critical work. Policy makers, parents, community members, and students all have a role in making teachers successful.

As we begin a new school year, let’s pledge to do the following:

Support Great Teaching

We must recognize that teachers are professionals. They understand what really matters in the classroom. It is critical that we trust our educators to provide an outstanding education for our youth and give them the space to try new activities and ideas to impact learning.  Before implementing policies, it would be helpful to include teachers in the decision-making process to ensure these ideas make sense and will resonate in the communities and schools where our teachers work. Let’s talk with our teachers to better understand their approach to learning and see how we can support rather than criticize their efforts.

Celebrate Collaboration

Some schools incorporate collaborative time among educators well. We must share these positive experiences across the education landscape. Schools and districts that find space for collaboration amplify the abilities of their teachers to make a positive impact on their students and allow teacher leaders to work with their peers to strengthen instruction. Whether analyzing student work, brainstorming new approaches, sharing materials, or providing counsel on a challenging situation, teachers need time to work as a team. It’s necessary to carve out time in the school day where teachers can collaborate with each other.

Provide Resources to Support Implementation

Teaching is exciting because there is always something new. At the same time…there is always something new. As we strive to advance educational opportunities for every student, we need to back these new and existing initiatives with resources to support their implementation. Please keep in mind that resources does not always mean money or books; rather, it can also encompass time for planning and collaboration, professional development, professional learning, coaching, and more. The key takeaway is to provide teachers with the support they need, when they need it.

Promote Equity

Every student has a right to great teaching, and every teacher has a right to the conditions that make great teaching possible. We need to make a commitment to ensuring that an equitable distribution of great teaching and the resources and materials to support these teachers are a fundamental part of our educational system. We need to attract great teachers to the schools that need them the most and then make good on a promise to put in place the conditions that help those teachers thrive and succeed. This is how we will prepare every student for college, career, and life readiness.

These four areas are key to supporting great teaching. Let’s make sure that we are all doing our part to help teachers and students succeed.


Melinda George, President, oversees NCTAF’s research, policy, and implementation projects, develops and maintains strategic partnerships, and provides thought leadership about teaching for the 21st century. Melinda served as NCTAF’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since 2011.


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